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John Hughes - Kora Sutra

Kora Sutra

John Hughes

John Hughes
33 West Street
Brattleboro, VT 05301

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Lindsay Cobb

John Hughes must be a happy man. His first CD, Kora Sutra, could not have been created otherwise. Serenity and joy float through this recording like a raft floating down a wide, placid river, inviting the listener to float along.

Hughes, a multi-talented musician, artist, and teacher, has trained with master drummers from Guinea and Mali, and teaches drumming workshops across the US. I first heard Hughes' music at an African dance recital, where Yemaya (track one of the CD) served as accompaniment. Arranged from a traditional Yoruban chant from Nigeria, Yemaya is a languid, unhurried piece consisting of percussion and vocals. The music didn't just enhance the choreography: it made me want to join the dancers on stage. Luckily, I found the CD at the snack table during intermission.

The rest of Kora Sutra continues at a similar leisurely pace. It's a relaxed collection of original compositions informed by traditional African rhythms and melodies, employing such instruments as the sangban, udu, kalimba, dunun, balafone, and the eponymous kora--this last one being a plucked harp-lute with a large calabash (gourd) body, a cow hide "sound board," and twenty-one nylon strings. Hughes plays all of these instruments, some of which he built himself.

If I wanted to describe the "stand-outs" on Kora Sutra, I'd only wind up listing all the tracks. Some of the stand-outs of the stand-outs include:

  • I Like Your Bones — a multitracked vocalese number that combines scat singing, overtoning, and general jazzing around.
  • Solar Wind — one of the few tracks approaching a fast pace, it's a rather quiet jaunt featuring Erik Lawrence on alto flute, and Hughes providing everything else from marimba to salad bowl.
  • Slow 10 (Listen) — a sultry number sung by guest vocalist Natalie Blake; the raft has floated down the river all day, and is now tied up in a secluded harbor for the night. (A friend of mine listening to this cut mistook Blake for the pop chanteuse Sade.)
  • River Goddess — the last track, is a poem with musical accompaniment, recited by John DeKadt with exuberant reverence as it describes a woman on a jungle riverbank, "like fertility with feet," bathing and gathering water into a jar.

John Hughes' Kora Sutra is the perfect accompaniment for dancing, relaxing, or just being happy to be alive. Thanks for sharing the wealth, John.


  • Yemaya (trad., arranged by Hughes)
  • Kora Sutra (Hughes, Andrea Konstankiewiczova)
  • I Like Your Bones
  • Kan-Kan Omasse
  • Bala Hop
  • Solar Wind (Hughes, Erik Lawrence)
  • Slow 10 (Listen) (Hughes, Natalie Blake, Todd Roach)
  • River Goddess (Hughes, John DeKadt)
(All songs written and arranged by John Hughes, except as noted)

Edited by David N. Pyles

Copyright 2004, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.

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